At the age of 19, Malak got married. At that young age, she probably thought that she had found the love of her life – a man who would protect her, support her, and help her achieve her dreams. She probably thought that she had found her happily ever after. However, it did not take long for that dream to be shattered. A year after her marriage, Malak set herself on fire, as a result of the continuous abuse and violence inflicted by her husband and his family.
Some sources report that it was Malak's husband who has set her on fire, while others say she decided to end her own life. Regardless of which scenario is right, her story embodies nothing but a hideous crime that is experienced by women throughout Iraq.
Violence, especially against women, is pervasive in Iraq. While Malak’s story went viral and the investigation is currently on-going, there are many other stories of girls going through the same, or worst. The only difference is that those stories are untold, caged behind four walls. What does that mean for the women and children living in these conditions? How do they perceive life? And if this continues, what will the next generation of Iraqis be like?
Currently, there are no up-to-date statistics on violence against women in Iraq, but in 2012 it was reported that one in five women had experienced domestic violence. The sad part is that many stories go unreported, as many Iraqi women consider violence to be a normal part of marriage. But for a better and more mentally stable world, this needs to stop, because every human regardless of gender deserves a safe life free from violence.
Iraq is a country that throughout the years has seen nothing but war and upheaval, due to which many laws are lacking, including laws to protect women. However, for our country to prosper, this needs to change. The government must ensure that no women suffer the way Malak did. It is time to promote gender equality and enforce laws that protect women, so they are can share their stories and violence can end.
This will not just help women but also children, for it is children exposed to violence that grow up to be at higher risk of mental conditions such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. Worse, it is usually these children who grow up to continue the cycle of violence. It is therefore vital to educate children and society about human rights and women’s rights at schools and at home, to break this heinous chain. Likewise, it is crucial to implement laws that stop child marriage until girls are mature enough to make their own choices, because marriage at a young age usually comes with social isolation and power imbalances that put girls at greater risk of violence.
It is time to end violence, not just because of Malak, but to make this world better and safer for all. It is about saving every innocent person. It is about saving every woman. For women make up half of the society and help to raise the other half.